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Digital Learning Environments Teaching and Learning

The role of Formative Assessment in our return to physical school: Opportunities to review material at the start of the lesson

There are three platforms I use to ensure that every student is taking part and to instantly collect the data you need to move on into your lesson. The best part is about using these platforms is that I know they are truly engaged in a challenging activity from the start of the lesson, leaving me free to take the register and interact with the students as they are entering the classroom.

Even though it has taken me over a year to write the sequels to this blog stream, I still find I am still talking about incorporating Distance Learner students into our lessons. This will soon change. But the consequences of teaching a full year online will remain with us. By this, I mean the good consequences. Some schools have gone completely paperless and rely on their school cloud to organise their teachers and students.

Some schools have completely overhauled their feedback and marking to make the best use of the digital copybook OneNote.

Some schools now see the benefit of having portable teacher devices for flexible learning and working environments (bye desktops. Your massive screens have divided us from our students for way too long.)

What has not changed is how many questions we ask, and how many questions our students ask each other. By asking questions we solidify concepts, challenge our students to think deeper, and dig out misconceptions to analyse and unpick.

Questions are the lifeblood of a lesson. My own reflections on how technology enhanced my formative assessment game basically focuses on different types of questioning and how platforms helped me gather and act upon my student data.

In my previous article I touched upon why I do not give out Learning Intentions in the first 5mins of a lesson. Ever. It overwhelms both me and my students. So, this is what I do in the first 5mins of my lesson. I make sure that my students can review material they have previously learnt.

What I actually do in the first 5 mins of a lesson.

Disclaimer. No cutting and sticking needed.

Reviewing material is important in a student’s learning cycle because it acknowledges and makes good use of the “Forgetting Curve”, and it provides the students an opportunity to master skills by overlearning.

Being in the first 5mins of the lesson, this task primes your students to acknowledge their previous learning so they have an idea of the concepts you wish to build upon in your present lesson.

Traditionally, this might be an opportunity to go through homework questions, to write answers “in the back of your book” to a quiz flung up as the first powerpoint slide. Or for the teachers who have more time and patience than me, little cut out worksheets that are handed out at the door.

These worksheets will end up badly stuck in the students book… or in the bin. The big unknown, even for the most experienced teachers is how much your students interact with these questions when presented this way… and how much you, as a teacher can accurately address misconceptions in their answers.

There are three platforms I use to ensure that every student is taking part and to instantly collect the data you need to move on into your lesson. The best part is about using these platforms is that I know they are truly engaged in a challenging activity from the start of the lesson, leaving me free to take the register and interact with the students as they are entering the classroom.

Platforms that engage all students, with no fuss

I have picked these three platforms because they provide questions to students at their pace, and they provide me with meaningful data on the class. Students can also choose to use the platforms in their own time continue their mastery of learning.

Quizziz

The first time I used Quizziz it was actually in one of my first lockdown lessons…. And it was a heartwarming moment, because for the first time, I could see my students fully engaging in a task. This carried on into my physical classrooms.

What will Quizziz do for your classroom?

Individually paced Questions for students

Quizziz ensures every student is held accountable for answering questions and rewards students with bonuses and power ups for questions that are correct. The students can sign in using a hyperlink or the class join code. You can start the quiz as soon as the first person enters the lobby, which means no more awkward waiting for every class member to join.

Class set up for teachers

As a teacher using Quizziz, I did use a lot of the content that other teachers created by searching for it in the extensive online library. You can even take someone else’s quiz, create a copy for yourself and edit it to suit your class.

 You can even type in personalised feedback to address misconceptions immediately, which pops up for the student if they get an incorrect answer in class. It is much faster, for instance, than creating an A5 sheet, waiting for them to photocopy, then cutting them all out.

Meaningful analytics

During the quiz, analytics can immediately be tracked by looking at the question view, or teachers could display the leaderboard. Depending on the mood of the classroom, I used to flick between the two, and if there is a class that was struggling with the correct answers, I tend to keep the class board on the question analytics instead of the leaderboard, which was a little less intimidating for them!

Going through misconceptions or praising them for genuinely displaying understanding of the topic can them be done as a whole class. There is also a “practice link” formed for students that need another go on the quiz at the end. Paying for the full subscription does give you access to more analytics than the free version. For the purposes of using a Quizizz set to augment your review questions and what you do with the data in class, the free version is perfectly useful.

Quizlet

Quizlet was my go-to before the pandemic, and remained my go-to during and after, because there are SO many ways you can use it!

What will Quizlet do for your classroom?

Quizlet holds students accountable for actively taking part in the lesson because it relies on the students working together to answer the questions. The strong groupwork element is the reason I love to use it. I do not mind, in fact, I love having a noisy science lab with students shouting the answers at each other because it encourages them to verbalise their scientific thinking.

In Quizlet, all team members get the same question, but each team member only has access to some answers. If the team presses an incorrect answer, the team goes back to zero. The aim of Quizlet is to make sure you cooperate to figure out who has the correct answer.

But what if you want a class that is much… well, quieter? Use the “silent Quizlet” technique: Get the students into their randomly assigned groups, but they stay in their seat. They will then need to rely on each of their team members reading the question carefully, then exercising patience until one team member figures out they have the correct answer.

Teacher set up

Much like Quizziz, Quizlet also lets you take and adapt other teachers resources. The class feature will also give your students the ability to refer back to the Quizlets that you have put into their class sets.

I find that Quizlet is much better when asking questions about diagrams because you can insert a definition or keyword attached to a larger image. Which for my biology teaching, at all levels, is really useful.

Paying for the full subscription, of course, gives you more scope for student analytics. This includes an overview of how many students have completed the various self-directed activities on each Quizlet Set.

Blooket

If Quizlet and Quizziz had a child, then it’ll be Blooket. Blooket’s easy to use and highly engaging games attract students of all ages to engage them in answering the questions to advance their Blooket collection (Blookets are little square collectable avatars).

The usefulness of Blooket is really down to how well you phrase your questions, which is the same for all three platforms!

What will Blooket do to my classroom?

Using Blooket gives the teachers a bit more diversity to provide the students, the different games mean that the teacher can help exercise different social skills for the students, without compromising on asking the content driven questions. The blooket leaderboard also focuses on the game part of the session, not how many questions the student got correct.

I find this especially useful as a confidence boost with mixed ability classes, because all students have the opportunity to get their name to the top of the leaderboard. Blooket also has a discord community, which appears to be quite student focused, but still good for teachers to keep updated on Blooket’s development.

Teacher set up

Finding and creating blookets is fairly simple, but on the free version of the platform you cannot create classes. What you can do is set homework using a link to a game that expires on the deadline you choose.

Although analytics of the games are not available after the session ends on the free version, the analytics of each child will appear at the end of the game, which lets you go through the misconceptions for questions that were repeatedly incorrectly answered.

Takeaways

The quality of the question is the key element that drives retrieval practice, not the platform.

Using digital platforms will give you a smoother, less stressful start of a lesson, with the students engaged and challenged from the moment they get into the room.

What is your favourite platform for asking student questions, and do you have any tips for others when using technology to aid retrieval practice? I would love to hear them below!

By Linda Parsons

Author of Digilin Learning.
Follower of Educational Technology enthusiasts, of all subjects. I am an MIE Fellow, Apple teacher and Google Educator. If it can be used as a learning tool, I will be keen for it. Currently a science teacher in the UAE.

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